By David Fennell
The events in Libya are already revealing the hypocrisy and lies in the British, US and French governments’ claims about why they have launched their military campaign in Libya.
They said it was to protect civilians – instead their bombing raids are killing civilians. Worse still, weapons that do people permanent harm, and which should be outlawed, such as depleted uranium, are being used. Anyone who wants to know what that means for the future of Libyans need only read the accounts of the horrifying birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq, after the US used similar weapons.
Those who thought the imperialists were intervening in Libya to enforce a ‘no fly zone’ should simply read the accounts of how NATO airstrikes were used to lead the assault on Ajdabiya. As the BBC reported:
‘Libyan rebels backed by allied air raids say they have seized control of the frontline oil town of Ajdabiya from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. The BBC’s Ben Brown in Ajdabiya says there are scenes of jubilation among the insurgents… Saturday’s breakthrough came after a seventh night of bombardment by allies enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone. There were a series of massive coalition air strikes around Ajdabiya overnight, targeting Gaddafi forces.’
Meanwhile of course, there was no action by the US, Britain or France to ‘protect civilians’ during the Israeli air assault on Gaza. Nor any action to ‘protect civilians’ against the massacre carried out by the pro-Western dictator Saleh in Yemen. Nor, naturally, any condemnation of the Saudi intervention in Bahrain. Nor was there any US government demand for Egypt’s dictator Mubarak to go in the way it called for Gaddafi to depart.
The only thing that gives any coherent explanation to the imperialists’ interventions and non-interventions in the Middle East is that they support those who will give them access to oil – and who will support the murderous Israeli state, which is itself seen as a key guarantor of the US, Britain and France’s domination of oil.
The present alignment of forces in Libya is clear. Whatever the original intention of the Libyan rebels, they have become entirely dependent on an alliance of imperialist military powers and the most reactionary Arab regimes such as the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates. In this situation, any victory by them in the military struggle in Libya could only produce a Libya entirely subordinate to foreign imperialists. It is for this reason that Gaddafi, despite the brutal character of his dictatorship, has succeeded in creating a certain level of real social mobilisation – which is the only explanation of the scale of military resistance that is being shown against overwhelming imperialist air power.
The character of Gaddafi’s dictatorship led many in the Middle East to support the initial movement of the rebels against him. But an understanding of the real relation of social forces is now beginning to dawn on some. Egypt’s Socialist Renewal Current has produced a very interesting document which explains the situation.
‘If we take a closer look at the option of foreign intervention, we can notice that from the first day it was clear that the air embargo will not lead to changing the balance of power in favour of the rebels, because the greatest threat to the latter is artillery and tanks rather than aircraft. Hence, we saw the coalition forces hitting Gaddafi’s forces on the ground since the first day of the intervention.
This development poses serious risks. It is inevitable that it would lead to the killing of civilians en masse. It is also clear that Gaddafi will not fall easily. Hence, it is more likely that the war will last for a very long period of time… The end result of all this is that the situation could turn from a popular war against mercenaries to a civil war in the literal sense of the word….
‘On the other hand, we all know that the colonial powers which are attacking Gaddafi are waging their war for purely selfish calculations. These states are the same ones who supported Gaddafi and relied on him a short while ago. We have also to recognize that the Western intervention is aimed at tightening the imperialist control on the Libyan oil and strengthening Western presence in a region which is experiencing revolutions that represent a serious threat to Western interests. In light of this situation, the Libyan revolution is facing the risk of changing from a war against a repressive regime to a war between the forces backed by imperialism and the forces hostile to it.’
The only point to make regarding this analysis is that it is clear that there is not a ‘risk’ of the war becoming one between ‘the forces backed by imperialism and the forces hostile to it.’ It has already become so.
But the threat of this imperialist action goes further than just Libya. The establishment of a pure imperialist client in Libya would be used directly against progress in the country’s neighbours which have just undergone revolutions – Egypt and Tunisia. Successful imperialist military intervention in Libya will also be used as a precedent, and a lever, for future assaults on Hezbollah, Hamas and other Arab revolutionary movements.
The difference between a regime such as Gaddafi’s and the imperialists is simple. Gaddafi is a local gangster who, in world terms, controls few blocks of a city. The imperialists’ crimes are by comparison like those of a mafia boss such as Al Capone. Gaddafi could never even approach the crimes the imperialists are capable of – killing two million in Vietnam, many hundreds of thousands at a minimum in Iraq, dropping atomic bombs on Japan. No good will ever come of inviting Al Capone in to deal with a local gangster.
The unfolding of the events in Libya shows one of the most fundamental of all rules in politics. Never trust and never rely on the imperialists. It is to be hoped that those in the Middle East, and everywhere, who initially had illusions in the imperialist intervention in Libya will not have to pay too bitter a price to learn this lesson.